Wisconsin’s 2019 black bear hunt began on September 4th and on the season’s first three days bear hounds were killed by wolves in three separate incidents in Forest, Oneida and Douglas Counties. The latest incident in Douglas County is the 16th reported deadly encounter between federally protected gray wolves and bear hunting hounds in Wisconsin since July when the two-month bear hound training season began.
Wisconsin’s bear season runs until early October with 11,595 licensed hunters hoping to fill their tags before the WDNR quota of 3,835 black bears is reached. In 2018, of the 3,717 black bears legally killed in Wisconsin, 3,623 were killed with the aid of bait and 1,041 were killed with the aid of dogs and bait.
Most of the bear hound depredations that have occurred in 2019 have been in areas heavily baited for bears and where there is a history of wolf depredations on bear hounds. On opening day of the actual kill season on September 4th, a bear hound was killed in northern Forest County in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where so far this year, there have been five separate deadly fights between wolves and bear hounds on national forest lands.
Neither the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) require registration or limits to the number of baits a bear hunter can place on national forest and other public lands. Up to ten gallons of human food waste, fryer grease and even chocolate that is toxic to bears, can be used in each bait daily.
Since Wisconsin’s 2019 bear hound training season began, Wolf Patrol has been investigating and documenting federally protected wolves visiting and feeding from bear baits in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest where the majority of bear hound depredations in 2019 have occurred so far this year.
Unregistered and unlimited bear baiting on our national forest lands has created a deadly conflict between bear hunters and wolves that is only getting worse. A bear baiter and hound hunter operating where a bear hound was killed on September 4th has told Wolf Patrol that wolves aren’t only protecting their pups, they’re actively hunting free-roaming bear hounds. If wolves are becoming conditioned to hunting bear hounds, both WDNR and the USFS should take action to limit bear baiting and hound hunting in known WDNR Wolf Caution Areas.